From Leonardo to Rinus Roelofs

Leonardome started with two major names: the genius and polymath Leonardo da Vinci and the contemporary artist Rinus Roelofs.

Their studies and experiments have served as a basis for the educational resource developed by the Museu de Matemàtiques de Catalunya (Catalan Museum of Mathematics, MMACA).

The noblest pleasure is the joy
of understanding

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The triumph of infinite curiosity


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Leonardo da Vinci needs little introduction, homo universalis and the archetypal Renaissance man. Leonardo was a passionate observer of nature and hands-on experimentation: the great curiosity he felt for the world became the driving force for his life and work.

Six thousand pages of his notebooks are preserved today, which include his research into many disciplines.

Some of the notes anticipate developments of modern science, particularly in the field of machines and engineering.

_ Recreation of the famous Vitruvian Man, a sketch accompanying his anatomical notes.

The Codex Atlanticus

In one of these notebooks, the Codex Atlanticus, he detailed examples of architectural and town planning projects. And it focuses on two elements on which the Leonardome is based: the bridges and domes constructed using components that mutually support each other.

It is an idea that Leonardo did not fully develop but which he did demonstrate in some plans (on sheet 71v of the Codex Atlanticus we can see a bridge made with batons without using any kind of fixing material).

The same principle which applies to the bridge can be expanded in two directions in order to cover a space, as appears on sheets 899v and 899r of the Codex…This is a ‘reciprocal frame’. The theoretical basis of the Leonardome is found here: the three-dimensional assembly of components (in this case, wooden pieces) which provide mutual support for each other.


_ In the images, sheets 899v and 899r of the Codex Atlanticus (

‘In my work, there is a fascination with mathematical structures’

What does a contemporary artist and mathematician have to do with all this? The Dutchman, Rinus Roelofs, born in 1954, could be the embodiment of the humanist philosophy of the Renaissance. The mathematically inspired designs and structures have led him to Leonardo da Vinci.

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And, in rediscovering the geometric patterns of the Codex Atlanticus, he has investigated their symmetries, transformations and possible spin-offs. This research has been the origin of the Leonardome, the proposal developed by the Museu de Matemàtiques de Catalunya (Mathematical Museum of Catalonia, MMACA).